At the bottom of this page is a running list of costs and fees for simple items that the Believers Bail Out is encountering at jails across the country.
“Being poor is expensive.” We at Believers Bail Out find this statement to be very true. As we work to Bail Out Believers from pre-trial incarceration, we have learned first-hand how the prison system, money lenders, and local, state, and federal governments continue to punish and prey on the poor by charging high prices and fees for people’s basic needs. Fellow Muslims are trapped in jails before going to trial because they cannot afford to pay their money bails. While they are in pre-trial incarceration, they and their families must then pay the jail commissary to stay in touch, to read a Qur’an, and to get basic things like bath towels, reading glasses, and undergarments. This system punishes poor people with money bail, then continues to prey on them and their families while they are in prison.
Money bail is just the start of how being criminalized is costly both financially and socially. In Chicago, where Believers Bail Out is based, the costs and fees of being held at Cook County Jail quickly add up. The jail’s commissary controls access to all of the items that an incarcerated person can purchase, including very basic items like soap, deodorant, and materials to communicate with people outside of the jail. For example, if you want to send a letter, a pen is $.55, fifty sheets of paper are $.72 and a stamped envelope is $0.62. Ten-minute phone cards cost $10. That is $1 a minute! It is expensive to stay in touch with family and friends and even lawyers while you are awaiting trial. And it is expensive to receive money to spend in jail.
If family members and friends want to make sure you have funds to purchase items like paper and envelopes while in the jail, it will cost them $1.20 for a money order at the post office, but it will take up to five days to process. If someone’s mother pays cash at the jail to add money to “the books” of her son, the fee starts at $9.95. In another case, we used Moneygram, an online service to put $20 on someone’s account. We were charged an additional $9.95 in fees, almost an additional 50%! This is just one example of how expensive it is for a family to stay in touch while someone is detained in Cook County Jail. If one wants to read a sacred text, a Qur’an costs $27.01, while an English-language Bible is $7.99 and a Spanish-language Bible is $10.20. The different prices are stunning, yet this is just a small sample of how municipal jails and private companies extract money from poor people. The poor subsidize their own criminalization at every step in the criminal justice system: policing, jails, courts, prisons, electronic monitoring, etc.
We want to hear from you! Share with us the costs and fees that Muslims and others have to pay in the jails and prisons near you. This will be regularly updated:
Service Fees on Credit Cards when paying bond in Cook County (IL):
If the Bond is between $1.00 - $750.00 there is a 10% service fee (ie. $750 bond + $75 fee = $825 charge)
Bond is $750.00 - $1500.00 = 9% service fee
Bond is $1500.01 and up = 8% service fee
English-language Bible: $7.99
Spanish-language Bible: $10.20
Bath towel: $6.75
Reading glasses: $6.56
Boxers/briefs: ranging from $3.86 to $6.89 (depending on size)
Thermals: ranging from $6.56 to $7.50 (depending on size)
Tennis shoes: $39.88
Bras: $11.03 to $13.78 (depending on size)